Our friends in the old neighborhood gave us a going-away party Monday night. We closed on the house on Tuesday. We are caring for our granddaughters while their parents are out of town, so we packed them in the car and headed over to Washington Street for a last look at the house where our children grew up (and we did, too!). We took one last walk through, and Peyton remembered which bedroom belonged to which person, but wanted to know where her mother’s and aunt’s spouses slept when they were kids. She was shocked that they hadn’t lived with us.
Kent and Cathy Espe from next door brought over their collection of Adirondack chairs and set them up in our old front yard. They brought out beautiful big strawberries, grapes, and a big cake with a picture of our house on it. The kids were especially taken with the picture, and the fact that it wasn’t paper, but edible! On top of the cake was written, “Farewell from your old Neighborhood.” Then we sent the kids off to blow bubbles.
But the most remarkable thing of all was another picture. A drawing, actually. Kent is an artist. You have probably seen his drawings of Winona landmarks hanging on business walls around town. In 1979, he was doing a lot of drawings of private houses in the Winona area. So there on the table next to the cake with the Washington St. house was a drawing of our new house on Blackberry Road. Kent had done the original for Doug and Ruth Robinson, from whom we bought the house. Cathy found the old drawing when she was organizing Kent’s things, and they put it in a frame for us to keep.
Coincidentally, 1979 was the year that we moved to Washington St. It was also the year that Espes’ son Scott was born, on November 22. We had moved in only a week or so earlier. I distinctly remember seeing Kent and Cathy walking around the neighborhood that November, Cathy obviously pregnant. And then one day, as I turned onto Washington St. on my way home from work, there was a huge sign tacked to the front of their house, penned by Kent. “Welcome Home Cathy and Scott,” it said. And soon we met Scott. Two years later, our son, Jake, was born, and shortly after that Christopher Espe came along. It seemed like only minutes later that all three kids were running around the neighborhood, joined by the Kimber boys, the Moger boys, the Haack boys, the Lipinski boys, and it seemed hundreds of other little boys doing boy things, among them following and annoying their older siblings, who also roamed the neighborhood.
The party brought back a veritable video tape (remember those) of memories. We were not the homeowner equals of Espes, who can do anything. Once we asked Kent if we could borrow a tool to put up a swing on our front porch. Next thing we knew there was a table saw set up in our front yard, and within minutes Kent had put up the swing. We were left wondering what we would do for the rest of the weekend, as we had set aside two whole days for the project and hoped we could complete it in that short a time!
And other mind pictures: Being in musicals with John Fuschel, and watching Mary Ann’s gardens grow. Our girls playing with Jim and Nancy Bambenek’s girls, Jim’s home-brew, the time our Standard Poodle left the yard (at the instigation of our Black Lab) and sat paralyzed with fear in Bambenek’s yard until Jim came out to hold him. The Scott and Jane Biesanz kids playing with our kids, Biesanzes moving to Korda’s house right down the street and Jane’s niece Trisha and husband Mike and girls moving in. The Shepard boys baby-sitting for Jake, the time Chuck came over and helped me give Morgan her first EpiPen injection, Judy mowing her lawn with the reel mower, and introducing us to fiddlehead ferns as food. Jerry and Susan Windley-D’Aoust moving to the neighborhood years after Jerry was a reporter at the Winona Post. And watching their kids grow, and grow, and grow. Charlie and the late Josie Kubicek, Charlie’s W.W.II memories and Josie’s chronicling of the neighborhood activities with her camera. David Girod, and our aluminum can partnership — we emptied them and he collected them and donated the proceeds. Leann Conrad and Bill and their nightly backyard fires. Steve and Pat Wiltgen moving into Gert Phosky’s house across the street, and how grown up they had become since their college days when Steve, now a popular teacher at WSHS, drove delivery truck for us. Gert moving shortly after she drove her big old car into a ditch the street department had cordoned off. Ed and Irene Pellowski’s daughter Ruth, best friends with our daughter Morgan to this day. Bill Teagarden on a ladder at age 90 (?) painting his house, and Ruby and I sharing raspberries. The Thanksgiving Day that Joe Sherman came over and unplugged my sink after I put too many potato peels down the garbage disposal and we were expecting a houseful of relatives any minute. The kindnesses shown by our neighbors to us when our son died. And of course the many other people who had been neighbors over the 33 years we lived there. I had trouble holding back tears as I recalled all the great times.
I hope the new residents of 677 Washington enjoy the ‘hood as much as we did. See you later, guys, and thanks for the memories!